By Ken Reed
The NFL is experiencing a high injury rate this season. There are probably multiple reasons, including limited training and practice sessions due to Covid-19 and the lack of any preseason games to gradually get in game shape.
But there’s one injury factor that’s been a constant through the years: artificial turf. And the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) is committed to doing something about it.
“The data stands out and the numbers are staggering in the difference in injury rate,” said NFLPA president and Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter.
“We all should be working toward the safest style of play, and we know the dangers of playing on turf. It’s not good for players, it’s not good for the GMs and the head coaches, it’s not good for the owners and it’s not good for the fans. Increased injuries are not good for anybody.”
In a review of the NFL’s injury statistics from 2012 to 2018, the NFLPA found that players have a 28% overall higher rate of non-contact lower extremity injuries on turf and a 32% higher rate of non-contact knee injuries. Non-contact foot or ankle injuries are 69% percent more likely on artificial fields.
Tretter was elected NFLPA president on March 10th and has made player safety and injury prevention a focus of his leadership.
Player safety is “something that from here on out, I think we need to make a priority,” said Tretter.
“Until we can find a way to get synthetic turf to respond and react like natural grass, it’s too much of a danger to continue to play on and expect different results. It’s possible to get grass in every location, and it’s about pushing for that.”
Currently, seventeen NFL teams play their home games on grass and 15 play on artificial turf. But Tretter says there’s no reason that needs to be the case. He pointed out that natural fields are used in cold-weather markets like Cleveland (FirstEnergy Stadium), Green Bay (Lambeau Field) and Pittsburgh (Heinz Field), in addition to enclosed stadiums in Arizona (State Farm Stadium) and Las Vegas (Allegiant Stadium).
“If we know grass is significantly more safe than synthetic turf, it’s about continuing to push forward and making it a priority,” said Tretter.
“This is about continuing to push to provide us with the safest work environment possible. Player safety will always be a priority for us and for the union.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
A League of Fans Special Report